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September 27, 2012

Spurrier returns fire in feud



Steve Spurrier's well-publicized feud with a local newspaper columnist reached a new audience on Thursday, namely the thousands of South Carolina fans that tune in each week during the season to listen to his radio call-in show.

Most weeks, Spurrier talks mainly about the goings on within the Gamecock football program and casually chats with host Todd Ellis and the callers lucky enough to get through.

But this Thursday night was different. Much different.

The feud, which began in March 2011, has lasted more than 18 months and escalated recently when the columnist criticized Spurrier for playing quarterback Connor Shaw in the UAB game on Sept. 15.

At the time, Shaw was bothered by a hairline fracture in his shoulder blade. However, he was cleared to play by team doctors and trainers. He started and eventually left the game late in the second quarter after being hammered by a Blazers' defender in the pocket after throwing a pass.

Last weekend, Spurrier declined to take questions from the media following the 31-10 win over Missouri as well as his weekly Sunday afternoon teleconference. In both cases, he made a statement, then exited. While no reason was given for his refusal to answer questions, it was widely believed Spurrier was angry about the aforementioned column published in the aftermath of the UAB game.

Thursday, Spurrier took full advantage of the platform provided by the weekly radio show.

"One of the local writers wrote another nasty article last week," Spurrier said on Thursday. "It was very negative and critical towards me. It slandered my name and my integrity. The guy is trying to tarnish and ruin my reputation as a coach. That's OK. I don't dislike this guy, I really don't. Because we all know who the guy is and that's the kind of person he is."

According to Spurrier, the negative column was the final straw in his ongoing battle with the columnist and he decided to take action.

"I told my wife after the last article, 'I've had it. I've had enough,'" Spurrier said. "'I'm not going to take it anymore. I've had enough.' Almost all of the Gamecocks say, 'Coach, don't pay any attention to him, he's insignificant,' which he is. He is not an important person. But they're not having their name and reputation slandered. So, I'm the one. It's not my mode of operation to not say anything about it. So, this is my voice here. He gets his voice in the newspaper, which he uses."

So, what happens next? Spurrier suggested the look of the local media could be different in the near future.

"I think we need to make some changes. I think some positive changes are going to happen," Spurrier said. "They have a little problem over there that we know about, but they're working on it. Our president and our athletic director, they're all backing me in this."

[RELATED CONTENT: Details of the changes begin to emerge]

USC athletic director Ray Tanner defended Spurrier on Monday's "Inside the Roost" program.

Spurrier suggested USC's recent success (24-7 record in the last three seasons) has put a target on the Gamecocks' back, even drawing fire from the local mainstream media.

"Historically, around here at South Carolina, we're in uncharted waters right now. We're winning," Spurrier said. "It used to be cool to try to trash and bash the head coach, from what I've learned. But it's not cool anymore. I don't think I have to put up with that anymore."

Spurrier suggested that had he known the local newspaper would published so many "negative" columns about him, he would have declined to take the USC job in 2004. But, he added, "I'm glad it worked out."

"When I came here, I didn't know we had some enemies within our own city," Spurrier said. "If Mike McGee, when he hired me, had said, 'Steve, we're going to give you a chance to run the football program at South Carolina. You hire your coaches, you do your thing, but you have to put up with the local media trying to trash you and try to ruin your reputation and they'll try to portray you as a mean, evil, self-serving person.' I would have said, 'You give that job to somebody else. I'll wait for the North Carolina job to open,' which opened the next year."

Spurrier asserted the columnist had "an axe to grind," but appeared satisfied at what he claimed were changes looming on the horizon.

"I believe our city is going to be better off because we're all going to get along better. That's what it's all about," Spurrier said. "We've had some serious discussions about things. Basically, I said I'm not taking any more of this stuff that's coming out of our local paper anymore. If that's part of the job, I'll head to the beach. That's not part of the job. So, we're going to get it straightened out."

NOTES

* USC is trying to match the longest winning streak in school history (nine) and trying to win its 11th straight SEC East game.

* Spurrier said the offensive line was "doing OK." Starting right tackle Mike Matulis has not practiced for the last two days, but should be able to play.

* The average margin of victory in the games between USC and Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., since 1998 is about five points.

* Spurrier said D.J. Swearinger is "fired up to play" after missing last week's game due to suspension.

* Spurrier confirmed that cornerback Akeem Auguste will play about 15-20 snaps on Saturday and was "moving well" in practice.

* Spurrier reiterated that Brandon Wilds will likely redshirt this year because he is the fourth running back with little prospect of playing as he finishes his rehab from a sprained ankle. "If there's a chance to hold him out this year, we may do that," Spurrier said. "And he wants to do that."

* Spurrier said he expects Shaw will play well again.

* Spurrier says he was hoping to see a game where special teams contributed to a victory. "It finally happened last week. The score was 0-0 when Ace (Sanders) had his big 49-yard punt return. Then, the score was 14-3 when Bruce (Ellington) ripped off his 50-yard kickoff return."

* Spurrier said the "time will come" for freshmen Mike Davis and Shaq Roland. He distinguished the Marcus Lattimore situation because there weren't many players ahead of him on the depth chart in 2010.

* Spurrier told a caller that USC isn't going to worry about Shaw or Lattimore getting hurt. Spurrier described Lattimore as a "football player" and not afraid to take on linebackers and block guys. He is also very good at catching the ball.

* Spurrier said Kentucky has run the ball effectively from time to time this season. He added there is no denying the Wildcats have struggled this year, but they're capable of beating USC or at least making it tough on the Gamecocks. It's still an SEC road game.

* Spurrier said wide receiver Damiere Byrd has been practicing better in recent weeks. Specifically, he has been running faster in practice and quarterbacks are no longer overthrowing him.

* Spurrier said USC is not afraid to run bootlegs. He referenced one pass to Buster Anderson in a recent game.

* Spurrier again talked about former Gamecock player Syvelle Newton being in his office this week. Newton is finishing up his degree requirements this semester.

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